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Vivendi-Mediaset dispute heading for court with no deal in sight

Vivendi and Mediaset now appear destined to face each other in court after the pair failed to come to an agreement to end their long-running dispute, according to Italian press reports.

The first hearing of the case is set to take place next Tuesday. Mediaset and parent company Fininvest are claiming €3 billion in damages following Vivendi’s decision in 2016 to pull out of a deal by which it would have taken control of the Italian broadcaster’s struggling pay TV arm and gained a minority stake in Mediaset itself.

The latest twist in the long-running Vivendi-Mediaset saga follows the failure of Vivendi-backed Telecom Italia shareholders to agree a plan to create a joint venture with Vivendi’s pay TV arm Canal+ in January. Failure to reach an agreement with shareholders set back plans to create the JV, which would have acquired and produced content in the Italian market that would have been distributed via Telecom Italia’s TV platform.

Telecom Italia’s board had earlier approved plans to strike a deal with Mediaset to bring the latter’s linear channels, movies, TV series and sports news content to its platform. Vivendi had reportedly hoped that the Canal+/Telecom Italia JV, which the telco would have held a 60% stake, would serve as a vehicle to acquire Mediaset’s content, paving the way for a deal between the pair and an end to the dispute.

According to press reports in January, the management of Vivendi, Telecom Italia and Mediaset also mulled an expansion of the JV plan to bring the Italian broadcaster in as a minority shareholder, with Mediaset and Canal+ taking a 20% stake each and Telecom Italia committing to acquire €460 million of Mediaset contet over a six year agreement.

With those plans now stalled, the only remaining chance of avoiding court is a last-minute attempt at arbitration due to take place in Milan on Monday.

Both Vivendi and Telecom Italia are under pressure on multiple fronts.

Italian regulator AGCOM is demanding a realisation of Vivendi’s commitment to set out a plan to freeze and dispose of the stake in Mediaset it acquired at the end of 2016 in a series of moves strongly opposed by the Italian media group.

Separately, Italian financial investigators meanwhile have raided Telecom Italia’s offices over allegations that the tleco has engaged in anti-competitive behaviour related to its fixed access network – allegations that the telco strongly denies.